Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jul 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [9 - 15 Jul 2012]
from Green Business Times

25 June - Chek Jawa, Last Guided Public Walk of 2012
from Urchin's World

Whistling-Ducks and Hybrid Ducklings
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Clean Coast Index Report 2011 - Part 2
from MNS Marine Group, Selangor Branch and Part 1

Indonesia green news: 70% of Indonesia’s coral reefs damaged; Authorities exploring corruption charges in Tripa from news by Rhett Butler

Charts: deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, 2000-2010
from news by Rhett Butler

Brown Rat
from Monday Morgue

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Dolphins are born free, and should live freely

Straits Times 16 Jul 12;

MR BISWAJIT Guha, director of education and conservation at the Marine Life Park of Resorts World Sentosa, was quoted as saying that the 'dolphin issue was taking a turn that wasn't very scientific. It was tugging at people's heartstrings' ('Marine Life Park director to make dolphins 'ambassadors''; last Wednesday).

The issue should rightly tug at our heartstrings.

What is the educational value in watching dolphins swim in circles and feed on dead fish in a man-made aquarium where captivity, according to peer-reviewed papers, will drive them to abnormal behaviour? The educational claims must have been confused with entertainment.

True education is in the field studies and observation of the natural behaviour of cetaceans thriving in the oceans where they can demonstrate their spectacular and unique intelligence to the fullest, living free and wild.

Irene Low (Ms)

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Pre-school wins award for green efforts

Janice Tai Straits Times 16 Jul 12;

FIVE-YEAR-OLD Adriel Michaela Leow used to turn her nose up at the sweet potato leaves served at home for dinner.

But ever since she pitched in to help grow and harvest the plant at a garden in her pre-school, her appetite for the vegetable has grown. She has even helped to cook them in the school's kitchen.

'Getting close to nature has made her more receptive to try new things and she learns a lotmore with this hands-on approach,' said her mother, Madam Yvonne Lee, 40.

For turning an ordinary garden into a stimulating arena where children could learn about nature, Etonhouse Pre-school in Mountbatten has been given the top award in this year's Community in Bloom Awards, spearheaded by the National Parks Board.

The biennial awards, held for the fifth time, highlight and reward excellence in gardening efforts. The only pre-school to garner the top honour, Etonhouse received the award at the Singapore Garden Festival last Saturday.

Besides growing herbs and vegetables, the children created a sanctuary for sunbirds.

Walkways to the school were also lined with creepers to provide shade. A particular species of creeper was grown because it attracted butterflies. And when the butterflies laid their eggs, the children took them into the classroom to see their transformation from caterpillars into butterflies.

Even when things went awry, nature provided opportunities for the children to find solutions, said Ms Josephyne Ho, a senior preschool director from Etonhouse who started the school's green movement in 2007. For instance, when the children realised that their vegetables were being eaten by grasshoppers and birds, they put up a scarecrow.

'I was sad that the cabbage was eaten so we asked the teacher if we could use an old uniform to make a scarecrow,' said Claire Mayer, six, who said she enjoys the garden for the 'pretty flowers, the air and the sun'.

The children spend about an hour outdoors every day; storytelling and drawing lessons are also sometimes held there.

'When they have regular contact with nature, children grow to love it and that's where the learning starts,' said Mrs Carine Lian, 40, mother of two children at Etonhouse. 'They rush to school to see if their plants have grown two inches taller.'

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Rare turtle found hurt near Botanic Gardens

Wattle-necked softshell turtle dies from injuries; likely brought in illegally
Grace Chua 16 Jul 12;

DRIVING down Tyersall Avenue behind the Botanic Gardens last month, Mrs Catherine Jones spotted a large lump in the road.

It was a large turtle nearly half a metre wide, with a cracked shell.

The homemaker, 46, took it to an animal hospital, which referred her to the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society's (Acres) Wildlife Rescue Centre.

To their astonishment, Acres staff found it was a rare wattle-necked softshell turtle, native not to Singapore but to China.

In other words, it was also likely an illegal alien.

The only two reptiles allowed as pets here are the red-eared slider turtle and Malayan box turtle.

'Honestly, we have no clue how she ended up there,' said rescue centre director Anbarasi Boopal of the adult female turtle, adding that it was difficult to tell its exact age.

The turtle was given medical treatment but died shortly after from its injuries.

Reptiles are among the most commonly-sold illegal creatures in the pet and food trades here in Singapore; they make up 40 per cent of enforcement cases involving live wildlife, said a spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

In the last five years, AVA has confiscated more than 150 snakes, lizards, tortoises and turtles.

In a 2005 investigation into the illegal reptile trade, Acres found that one in five of the 100 shops surveyed was found to be selling illegal reptiles, including turtles, at prices from $2.50 to $80.

Acres' rescue centre and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) both have non-native reptiles confiscated from black-market sellers, or that were found abandoned.

The Acres centre has 30 or so star tortoises, native to India and coveted for the ornate star-like shell pattern that gives them their name; it also has non-native species such as green iguanas and pig-nosed turtles - both are popular, but illegal, exotic pets.

Under Singapore's Endangered Species Act, anyone caught importing, exporting, re-exporting or possessing any species scheduled in the Act without a permit can get in trouble with the law.

They may be fined up to $50,000 for each species, with a cap of $500,000, and/or jailed for up to two years.

AVA said such species are prohibited because non-native animals may not survive escape or abandonment, or may disrupt the native ecosystem.

'They may potentially be invasive and compete with the native ones for food or habitat if they are released or escape into the wild,' said an AVA spokesman.

The wattle-necked softshell turtle found by Mrs Jones is a case in point.

Although the turtles are threatened in their native China, they are thriving as an invasive species in Mauritius and some Hawaiian islands.

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Malaysian Nature Society tasked with finding the habitat for the fireflies

Ivan Loh The Star 16 Jul 12;

THE Malaysian Nature Society has been tasked by the state government to find suitable areas in Kampung Dew, Kuala Gula, to be gazetted as firefly habitats.

Perak Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman said the state wanted the recommendations of the society and to seek their expertise on locating such areas in order to revive the dwindling number of fireflies in Kampung Dew.

“The society has already submitted its quotation for an allocation to conduct the study.

“Once their report is completed, I will bring up the matter with the state executive council.

“We need to gazette the area to maintain the eco-system of the fireflies,” she said, adding that the society had been given until the end of the month to submit a report on its findings.

Hamidah revealed that the number of fireflies in Kampung Dew had dropped since last year but denied it had anything to do with the setting up of commercial shrimp farms nearby.

“Reports that pollution is being brought about by the shrimp farms has nothing to do with the dwindling number of fireflies.

“I think it is more of berembang trees being chopped down for development as these trees are the preferred habitat of fireflies,” Hamidah said, adding that she would soon visit Kampung Dew to check out the situation for herself.

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Malaysia: Rising sea level affecting the environment and coastal communities

Christina Tan 16 Jul 12;

BATU PAHAT: Rocks were dumped along a beach in Senggarang and nearby areas stretching over 6km to prevent further soil erosion.

The project costing RM200,000 funded by the Drainage and Irrigation Department was completed early this year.

However, the rock wall is a short-term measure, said Senggarang assemblyman Jaafar Hashim when met at Kampung Seri Pantai, one of the beaches in Senggarang which was badly affected by erosion.

Jaafar said the sea was getting closer to the villages as waves swept the sand into the sea.

The soil erosion left some of the villagers’ homes and farms flooded with seawater during high tide and strong waves.

“One way or another, we have to take action and overcome the erosion problem as the coastal communities have to grapple with rising waters.

“The situation is quite critical because large quantities of sand disappears every year.

“Over the years, we lost about two to three metres of land in certain stretches of the beach and for decades, some of the beaches has eroded by 250metres,” he added.

Jaafar said the southwest monsoon winds that hits the area from April to September, causing strong waves was one of the biggest contributors to the erosion.

He said the sea level at beaches such as the one in Kampung Seri Pantai has reached 3.5metres from 3.2metres in just one to two years.

Geographical change including climate and land reclaimation activities at nearby areas said Jaafar, also added to the rise in sea level.

Jaafar added a long-term measure such as installing wave-breakers to reduce wave pressure is needed to protect the area from further erosion.

A local university had conducted a study and in its 2009 report, mentioned the coast along Senggarang stretching 13.7km from Koris to Punggor required erosion prevention works with an estimated cost of RM89mil.

Jaafar said the government is concerned about the livelihood of the coastal communities and looking into long-term solutions for the good of the environment.

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Malaysia: Big turnout for 'Save Bukit Kiara' walk

Vijenthi Nair The Star 15 Jul 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: A big group of people turned up at Bukit Kiara here Sunday wearing "Save Bukit Kiara" T-shirts, to join the awarenesss walk and silently show their disapproval of current happenings at the park.

In October last year, the National Landscape Department started putting up a 3.5m high fence along a 4.7km stretch, as part of an upgrading project to demarcate the park and increase security for visitors.

The construction, which is still ongoing, caused an estimated 3,000 mature trees to be felled and some trails damaged, among others.

The massive earthworks are also causing harm to the pristine water body in the heart of the park and all the points downstream.

Non-governmental organisation like Friends of Bukit Kiara, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and the Selangor and Global Environment Center have been trying to save and preserve the park in the most natural way possible.

Selangor Malaysian Nature Society chairman Henry Goh said they wanted construction work to stop immediately and the park to be gazetted as a green lung.

"We have been promised the gazettement of the park since 2006 but why is it taking to long? Although Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung has assured that the Bukit Kiara park area, covering some 189ha, will be maintained as a green lung, we are not convinced with verbal assurance.

"The fencing was put up without any consultation and has resulted in a massive outcry. We also want frequent dialogues to be held on matters pertaining to Bukit Kiara," he said.

The Bukit Kiara trails, said to be among the best in Asia, also attract mountain bikers, some from as far as Singapore.

Booths were also set up Sunday to collect signatures for the petition to be submitted to higher authorities.

More than 10,000 signatures have been collected to date.

Construction works in Bukit Kiara causing much damage to the hill
Vijenthi Nair The Star 16 Jul 12;

IT WAS not just another walk in the park.

More than 1,000 people turned up to join a peaceful awareness walk at Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur yesterday wearing custom-made “Save Bukit Kiara” T-shirt in a silent protest against the current developments on the Kiara hill.

Bukit Kiara has been subjected to a certain degree of damage with the construction of a 3.5m high fence along a 4.7km stretch by the National Landscape Department (JLN).

It is part of an upgrading project to demarcate the area and increase security for visitors.

The construction has upset many Bukit Kiara visitors and environmentalists.

The construction, which is still going on, has resulted in around 3,000 matured trees felled and some trails damaged, among others.

The massive earthworks have also affected the pristine water body in the heart of the hill and all the points downstream.

During the walk, a sizeable number of participants also took onto the trails themselves, coming up from the pond at the Lembah Kiara Park on a trail called Park Connector to join the walk, while others were led onto Magic Carpet and 2K, so they got a feel of the two popular trails in Bukit Kiara.

Mountain bikers, some from as far as Singapore, also turned up to show their support to save the trails, which are known to be among the best mountain biking trails in Asia.

Signatures were also collected to submit a petition to Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung, demanding a stop to all construction works, requesting frequent dialogues with the stakeholders and the complete gazettement of the hill as a permanent forest reserve by the end of the year.

So far, more than 10,000 signatures have been collected.

The Star executive director and group chief editor Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai and his wife Datin Seri Florence Wong, who also participated in the walk, said they supported the pledge to protect Bukit Kiara as a green lung.

“The hills are our treasure and heritage.

“There is a great need for the authorities to convince the Friends of Bukit Kiara that the hill will remain as it is. We will remain vigilant in highlighting the cause to protect Bukit Kiara just as The Star is passionate about saving the hills of Penang,” said Wong, who was joined by his colleagues from the StarMetro desk.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Friends of Bukit Kiara, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, Taman Tun Dr Ismail Residents Association and Global Environment Centre have been trying to save and preserve the park in the most natural way possible.

Spotted among the many mountain bikers was Singaporean Eric Tan who travelled more than 400km just to show his support.

“I have been cycling for about 10 years and frequent the trails in Singapore and Johor but not one is even close to what Bukit Kiara has to offer.

“My Singaporean friends who tried the trails had nothing but rave reviews for it. True enough, I really love it. The challenging trail is one of the best I have ever experienced. I only started cycling in Bukit Kiara early this year, but I have been coming here ever since.

“I am sure Bukit Kiara also attracts many mountain bikers from the region, like me. It is a shame if such beautiful trails, maintained well by the public voluntarily is lost because of development. For example, Bukit Timah in Singapore has lost its green appeal after condominiums were built in the vicinity. Instead of lush greenery, you are greeted by concrete buildings.

“Bukit Kiara is a beauty and I really hope the trails are preserved in its natural state for the younger generation,” he said.

Mountain bikers from Pedalholics Cycling Club were also spotted among the crowd.

One of its members, Peter Choong, said the trails were a favourite among the mountain bikers and during the group’s fortnightly rides, they have been witnessing damage to the trails.

“Volunteers and mountain bikers have painstakingly cleared and maintained these trails over the years and for it to be damaged in just months, is unacceptable. The trails leading to Desa Sri Hartamas side are badly damaged.

“We are here to show our support. Bukit Kiara attracts plenty of expatriates too, so by encouraging this kind of violation of the park, we don’t look good to the rest of the world,” said Choong.

Spotted during the walk was expatriate Michael Wilson from New Zealand, who carried his young son Matai on his shoulders, during the the walk.

Wilson, who operates a cafe and lives in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, said the hill was being destroyed in the name of development.

“My wife is Malaysian and I have got everything going on for me right here. My business is doing well and I live in a lovely neighbourhood, which is close to the beautiful park,” he said.

His friend Paul Wellington from United Kingdom, who has been in Malaysia for eight years, also brought along his son named Sol.

“I do not understand the need for the fences in the first place. The authorities justified the fencing by citing preservation and preventing encroachment, but surely there’s a better way of doing it without harming nature,” he said.

A frequent park-goer who only wanted to be known as Tan was exercising with her husband before the journey up the hill.

Tan said that looking at what was happening to the hill, she felt that the authorities did not place much importance on conserving nature and the public’s needs.

“My husband and I have been using the park for the last 10 years.

“The Government has been encouraging Malaysians to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Bukit Kiara is a great place for outdoor activities. The Government should in fact create more recreational parks to encourage people to be active,” she said.

“The park is used by many people every day. In the past we have heard of many empty promises of preserving green lungs and fields in other areas, only for it to be taken away for development later.

“If the park is going to be preserved as a green lung, there should be no delay in the gazettement,” she said.

Nature lovers do their bit for Bukit Kiara
Vijenthi Nair The Star 16 Jul 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Nature lovers walked the talk by turning up in large numbers at Bukit Kiara to call for the green lung to be gazetted.

Signatures were also collected for a petition during the one hour walk organised by the Friends of Bukit Kiara at 8am yesterday.

The petition, among others, wants a stop to all construction work at Bukit Kiara. It will be submitted to Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung.

In October last year, the National Landscape Department started putting up a 3.5m-high fence along a 4.7km stretch as part of an upgrading project to demarcate the park and increase security for visitors.

The construction, which is still ongoing, caused an estimated 3,000 mature trees to be felled, trails to be damaged and has affected water quality in the area.

Selangor Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) chairman Henry Goh said the gazetting was promised by the Federal Territories Ministry back in 2006 and is still pending.

“There is a proposal to construct arboretums, buildings and cement lanes, as well as shop lots and a food court within the forest.

“We are not against development but it should not be done at the expense of nature,” said Goh, who took part in the walk.

Others included MNS president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed, Trails Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (Traks) president Scott Roberts, Global Environmental Centre (GEC) River Care Programme coordinator Dr K. Kalithasan, The Star group chief editor Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai and Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng.

Chor had earlier explained that clearing work being done at Bukit Kiara was to ensure it stays a green lung reserve.

He said the security fencing was built by the Landscape Department to protect the park from illegal encroachment.

He was also quoted as saying the paths were cleared to bring the equipment and material for the fencing. However, some residents had expressed concern that the clearing work was a prelude to commercial development.

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